Alarmed by the chief justiceâ€™s wandering concentration and a fall on the stairs of an Ottawa restaurant, the other eight Supreme Court judges banded together and gave him a gentle prod toward the door.
Besides shedding light on a fascinating chapter in Supreme Court history, the story of chief justice Lamerâ€™s departure opens a window into a world rarely glimpsed. Outside of the cloistered world of the judiciary, there has been precious little public discussion about the delicate question of what happens to a judge whose health and performance falters.
The judges were intent on showing respect to a jurist who had played a pivotal role in fleshing out a broad span of individual rights under the Charter. They selected a delegation of three veteran judges who embodied experience, candour and impartiality.
â€œWe didnâ€™t ask him to resign,â€ recalled former Supreme Court judge John Major, one of the three who attended the ultra-sensitive meeting with their chief. â€œWe merely said that his performance was not what it had been up until this time. â€¦ He said instantly: â€˜Well, then Iâ€™ll resign.â€™ â€